Faith and Formation

    YA Retreat 2013 – The Most Urgent Challenge

    Chris Johnson No Comments

    Pope Benedict XVI has told the U.S. bishops that the faith formation of the next generation of American Catholics must be their highest priority – not just passing on knowledge but shaping hearts. Speaking during this year’s retreat about “The Call to Youth Apostles,” Father Jack Peterson, YA, recalled the Holy Father’s message to the bishops who visited him last year in Rome.

    The text below first appeared as a Director’s Corner in the May 2012 issue of Youth Apostles’ newsletter, The Apostle.

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    The bishops of the United States have been traveling to Rome for their “ad limina” visits.

    Youth Apostles General Director Father Jack Peterson, YA, addresses the brothers on retreat.

    Youth Apostles General Director Father Jack Peterson, YA, addresses the brothers on retreat.

    These visits, which take place every five years, serve a variety of purposes. The bishops make a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, express their respect for and solidarity with the Holy Father, render an accounting of the state of their diocese to the Bishop of Rome, visit with the heads of various Congregations and Dicasteries and receive counsel from the pope.

    During a visit on May 5, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics in the United States. Pope Benedict raised the matter to the highest level of priority when he stated: “It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country.”

    I read this and understood it as a loud call to Youth Apostles to step up our game as we strive to live out our mission to “evangelize, teach, advise, challenge, console and love youth with the ultimate purpose of inspiring them to live Christ-like lives centered on prayer and the sacraments in the Catholic Church.”

    Now, forming young people in the faith has always been a major priority for the Church. As the Holy Father went on to say: “The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church.”

    Yet, as the Chief Shepherd of the Universal Church further explained, “the essential task of authentic education at every level is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts. There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigor in communicating effectively, attractively and integrally, the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer.”

    Youth Apostles was founded with the purpose of addressing this aspect of faith formation. We desire to shape the hearts of young people by building healthy, appropriate relationships with them, journeying with them through the turbulent years of adolescence and inviting them to come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ with all of their hearts.

    It is so much easier for young people to hear and respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ when their faith is shared by adults who live it authentically, take the time to get to know them, show genuine interest in their lives and patiently encourage perseverance as they grow closer to the Lord. In this setting, young people begin to desire to pray on their own, to root their lives in the Scriptures, to study the teachings of the Church, to attend the Sacraments regularly, to live the high moral standards of the Gospels and to serve their neighbor with generosity.

    How do we as Youth Apostles step up our game to better address “the most urgent internal challenge” of the American Church?

    First, we need to make sure that Jesus is truly the center of our lives. We need to become men of deep faith, truly transformed by the love of Christ. We need to live Christ-like lives of profound charity, strong conviction and extraordinary patience. We need to be men who are willing to sacrifice many aspects of our own lives in order to live generously for our brothers in community, our family members and the young people whom we serve.

    Next, we must be strongly committed to the great project of our relational ministry so that we can fight through the many challenges of our culture and assist God in opening the hearts of young people to the joy and strength that comes from following Christ.

    This commitment demands time, energy and prayer. It requires more than just showing up for a youth group meeting and preparing a talk. It entails coming early, staying late and engaging in meaningful conversations about things that matter to young people. It includes remembering your last conversation with them and following up on it at the next meeting. It demands going to an occasional game, concert or play, or at least asking about them afterwards if you can’t.

    Such genuine interest paves the way for being able to share with the students the blessing of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ. They are willing to listen because they know you care and you are genuine. This is often the way Jesus Himself served the people He encountered.

    Please pray for us in Youth Apostles. Pray that each member of our community will renew his commitment to grow in holiness, engage in intentional, relational ministry, and open young hearts to the pearl of great price, life lived in union with Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. Pray that God sends more men to join us in our mission.

    Father Jack Peterson, YA

    The Norfolk Blog: Full House

    Chris Johnson No Comments

    Father Mike Kuhn, YA, and I arrived in Norfolk about 19 months ago, on the first day of June 2011, and the Norfolk community of Youth Apostles was born. The following Tuesday night we held our first community meeting. I knew we were starting a community from scratch in Hampton Roads, but had no idea what to expect or how long it would take. Six men attended that first meeting; three full members (Father Mike, me and Joe Clem – a lifetime full-member who has lived in nearby Newport News for many years), two candidates who were home on college break, and a guest (one of their high school friends).

    The Norfolk Youth Apostles at Christmas: Father Mike Kuhn, Chip Snyder, Ben Fleser and Andrew DeCelle.

    The Norfolk Youth Apostles at Christmas: Father Mike Kuhn, Chip Snyder, Ben Fleser and Andrew DeCelle.

    A quick scan of the room during our most recent community meeting last Tuesday night gave me a bit of a thrill to see how much we’ve grown. You need to understand, our meetings over college breaks are always a hodgepodge. We have several college guys from Hampton Roads who attend year round, including the four men who made candidate commitments in Norfolk over the past year. However, several of our “regulars” during the school year travel back home over break and are out of range. But some guys who are home from college — mostly George Mason University — drop in, and invite their friends to join us. We really never know who will show up!

    We also had a few special guests last Tuesday. Chris Maimone, a lifetime full member from Fairfax, paid us a visit after delivering his daughter to Christopher Newport University for her spring semester. Three of our members from GMU were home, and they invited two other Mason students from Virginia Beach to stop by. We also had a guest priest — a friend of Youth Apostles who is the pastor of a local parish — covering for Father Mike while he attended a campus ministry conference in Florida. In total, we had 15 men attending at least part of the meeting. It was a full house!

    And that’s when it occurred to me: This is what we envisioned two years ago when we decided to move to Norfolk to begin the ministry at Old Dominion University. We have a great mix of men participating, whether you look at it by vocation ( the group includes priests, consecrated men and lay men) or commitment (full members, candidates, guests). We have members dropping in when they are in the area, we have guests who are interested in learning more about Youth Apostles, and we have developed friendly relationships with local clergy and other youth workers. We are firing on all cylinders!

    Not to imply that our work here is now done. We’re only getting started! Our mission is to lead young people to Christ and help them fall in love with the Church. But as a satellite community it’s impossible not to compare ourselves with our main community house in McLean. By several measures we already compare well to the “home office” (as we like to call it down here!).

    This Tuesday night (1/15) will mark the first meeting of the Spring semester, and we’ll be getting back to “normal.” The quotes are appropriate: college students are a busy bunch, and we’ve never had the same group of men two weeks in a row! I’ve enjoyed seeing our guests over break, but look forward to catching up with the students who have been away for the past month.

    God continues to bless us abundantly in Norfolk. The group of young men we spend time with every Tuesday night is a constant reminder of that.

    — Chip Snyder, YA

    Winning Pro-Life Posters Announced

    Chris Johnson No Comments

    Winning entries in the 14th annual Youth Apostles Pro-life Poster Contest have been selected.

    This year 433 students participated in the contest, the most ever submitted in one year. Judges noted a marked improvement in the overall quality of the entries. The theme was “I Formed You in the Womb.”

    The Youth Apostles poster contest provides young artists an opportunity to use their creative gifts to express their pro-life values and apply what they have learned at home, at school and through their parishes and youth ministry programs.

    Gracie Tecala, OLGC, 1st place, junior division

    Gracie Tecala, OLGC, 1st place, junior division

    The winners in this year’s contest are as follows:

    JUNIOR DIVISION

    First Place — Gracie Tecala, 7th grade, Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Vienna, Va.
    Second Place — Kelsie Loesch, 8th grade, Our Lady of Good Counsel School
    Third Place — Katie O’Brien, 8th grade, Our Lady of Good Counsel School

    Honorable Mention:
    Kristen Jones, 7th grade, Our Lady of Good Counsel School
    John McClorey, 8th grade, Our Lady of Good Counsel School
    Isabella Miranda, Our Lady of Good Counsel School
    Helen Wingate, 7th grade, Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester, Va.

    SENIOR DIVISION

    First Place — Brooke Sullivan, 12th grade, Paul VI High School, Fairfax, Va.
    Second Place — Haley Munn, 10th grade, Paul VI High School
    Third Place — Katie Eastman, 11th grade, Paul VI High School

    Brooke Sullivan, Paul VI, 1st place, senior division

    Brooke Sullivan, Paul VI, 1st place, senior division

    Honorable Mention:
    Gaby Coan, 9th grade, Paul VI High School
    Becca Kim Hyunjoo, 9th grade, Paul VI High School
    Danielle Issing, 12th grade, Paul VI High School
    Jessica Sydow, 9th grade, John Paul the Great High School
    Christine VandeHouten, 10th grade, Paul VI High School grade
    Christine VanTorsch, 10th grade, John Paul the Great High School
    Tiffany Vo, 11th grade, Paul VI High School
    Abigail Williams, 11th grade, John Paul the Great High School

    YA Retreat 2013 – Increase Our Faith

    Chris Johnson No Comments

    Youth Apostles gather in the Roslyn Retreat Center chapel.

    Youth Apostles gather in the Roslyn Retreat Center chapel.

    Some 80 Youth Apostles returned home Sunday (1/6) from the community’s annual retreat, a four-day dive into the silence and prayerful rigors of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

    This year the retreat took place at the Roslyn Retreat Center near Richmond, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The theme, taken from the Apostles’ petition to Jesus Christ in Luke 17:5, “Increase our faith,” was selected to coincide with the Year of Faith that Pope Benedict XVI launched last October.

    The Exercises are structured on a four-week cycle of  meditations and reflections the Spanish founder of the Jesuits developed in the 16th century. One week each is dedicated to probing sinfulness, forging resolutions for a life of cooperation with grace and reflecting both on the events of Christ’s passion and death and his resurrection. St. Ignatius is one of Youth Apostles’ three patrons, along with St. Francis of Assisi and St. John Bosco.

    The weekend is designed to help retreatants grow in their capacity to live their respective vocations as priests or as consecrated, married or single laymen, and to reinvigorate their commitment to bring young people to Christ in the Catholic Church.

    At the last of four Masses celebrated during the retreat 14 Youth Apostles renewed their Candidate or Full Member commitments. Candidates Nick Basinger, Ben Fleser, Jose Gil-Figueroa, Andrew Heller, Jonathan Kohn, Peter Maurer, Sean Mazary and Joey McDermott renewed their promises for one year. Full Members Paul Bevins, Anthony Foster Michael Galdo, Andrew Hadinger, Byron Wiedeman and Jacob Znachko each renewed their promises for five years.

    In the days ahead, we will post excerpts from talks and reflections the brothers prepared for their collective praying of the Liturgy of the Hours and a special meditation on the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.

    La Mancha Soars As Both Theater And Ministry

    Chris Johnson No Comments

     

    It takes dozens of people working toward a common purpose to put on a big musical like The Man of La Mancha.

    Maybe that’s what gives a theatrical production so much potential as a ministry. It inspires people, draws them outside of themselves and brings them together in a kind of communion.

    It helps, of course, when the story is about seeing the beauty in the essence of the other, as Don Quixote does with his lady. She may be the lowly Aldonza to everyone else, including herself, but to her knight she is the peerless Dulcinea. Nothing shakes his way of seeing her. And that is the essence of Christian seeing — how Christ sees each one of us and how we are called to see one another.

    Several Youth Apostles played their parts — Joey Clem as Don Quixote himself and Father Peter Nassetta, YA, (above, at left) as The Padre. Rob Tessier, coordinator of youth ministry at All Saints parish in Manassas, Va., directed the show, which ran July 18-22.

    Norfolk Youth Apostles welcome first two Candidates

    Chris Johnson No Comments

    The Norfolk community of Youth Apostles held its first Candidate Commitment Liturgy on Tuesday night, March 28th.  Two men made Candidate commitments to the community:  Jon Perez from Chesapeake, and Sean Mazary from Newport News.  Both are students at Old Dominion and are active in the Catholic Campus Ministry program there.  Jon is completing his third year of studies and Sean his first.

    Many people made a special trip to be present for the special liturgy.  Fr. Jack Peterson, director of Youth Apostles, came down from Northern Virginia to officiate at the event.  He was joined by five other members who made the three-hour drive to lend support to our new candidates.  In addition, the entire staff of the ODU Catholic Campus Ministry and eight students from ODU also attended.  In addition, family members and other friends of our community were in attendance.

    The Mass was held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Norfolk.  Fr. Mike Kuhn, YA, the CCM chaplain at Old Dominion, concelebrated with Youth Apostles’ director, Father Jack Peterson, YA.  Music was provided by John Hopke, the Director of Campus Ministry at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. 

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